06 February 2006

The Glory of the Lord

Several years ago, our faculty read Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach. One of the striking insights he provides into the vocation of teaching is that "Technique is what you do until the teacher shows up." In one sense, that is what is going on in today's first reading when the Israelites are dedicating the temple. The priests offered hosts of sacrifices -- countless oxen and sheep -- and the glory of the Lord so overwhelmed them that the Levitical priests could no longer carry out their charge. "Technique" is what a teacher practices until he grows into his role as "teacher." Sacrifices and offerings, the 'ministering' of the Levitical priests, were the methods by which the Israelites related to the Lord until the Lord revealed himself in his glory and took possession of the temple.

Sometimes we are reluctant to allow the Lord to move us to a new place in our spiritual lives because we are comfortable where we are. We like our routine: the prayers we say, the times and places we pray, etc. Regularity is good; arguably, it is indispensable in any serious life of prayer. Resistance to growth, however, is not good. It is difficult to discern the difference. When the Lord is inviting us to let go of our "burnt offerings" because he wants to fill us with himself -- much like the cloud that overwhelmed the priests in Solomon's temple -- he is not negating the goodness of our "burnt offerings" or the sincerity of our intentions; he is inviting us to grow. And sometimes growing means letting go of what is comfortable, retiring the "techniques" when the teacher arrives. Anyone who has made the transition from "technique" to "teacher" knows well that the process is a life-giving one -- not only for the teacher but for all those affected. So too, with our prayer lives, it is life-giving for us and for those around us when we allow the Lord to have His way.

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